Friday, January 26, 2007

An End to Stop-Loss?

The Air Force Times reported today that Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has instructed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, the Secretaries of the respective branches and other top defense officials that he wants plans on his desk by 28 February to find their manpower elsewhere. Stop-loss authority allows the services to extend people on active-duty at will by delaying planned separations, retirements and demobilizations.

“Use of stop loss will be minimized for both active and Reserve component forces,” Gates wrote in a Jan. 19 memo. This will affect the Army more than any other branch of service. The Air Force has not employed the stop-loss policy since 2003. The Marines have all but abandoned the practice and the Navy has only employed the controversial tactic twice - in the wake of the terror attacks of September 11, a total of 301 Navy were retained until December 2002. In the spring of 2003, 179 Corpsmen were retained in service beyond their scheduled dates of separation.

When American men and women enter into service, a bargain is struck. That bargain amounts to a sacred trust. Those who agree to serve are betrayed when they are held in service beyond their exit date against their wishes.

By stopping the reliance on stop-loss, Gates is doing the right thing.